Warning labels could deter parents from purchasing sugary drinks

A simple health warning label included on bottles of sugar-sweetened beverages may effectively dissuade parents from choosing sugary beverages for their children. A study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Eating Research program found that parents who viewed drink labels that contained health warnings were 20 percentage points less likely to choose a sugar-sweetened beverage for their children than parents who did not view a warning label.

Label study

The study was the first to examine whether warnings on sugar-sweetened beverage labels would influence parents. The test was conducted through an online survey that showed parents five different labels, one of which displayed calorie content and four others that contained various warning labels. The study also included a control group that saw no warning labels.

Findings

The study concluded that health warning labels may be effective at reducing how healthy parents perceived sugar-sweetened beverages and whether they would boost energy and focus. The labels may also increase understanding of the increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes the drinks pose to children. Forty percent of parents said they would choose a sugar-sweetened beverage that included a warning label, in contrast to 60 percent who did not see a warning label and said they would purchase a sugary drink.

The researchers also discovered that there were only minimal differences as to the effects of the four variations in the warning labels, but found that they all had a greater impact than the calorie version. Fifty-three percent of parents who saw the calorie label alone said that they would choose a sugar-sweetened beverage versus 40 percent of parents who viewed the health warning labels and would chose the sugary beverages. The study also found that 75 percent of parents supported the addition of health warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages.